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McGoldrick's return could be the key to make McCarthy's Ireland tick again

Sheffield United take on Spurs this afternoon ahead of a pivotal 10 days for Irish football.

McGoldrick: clever link play crucial for both club and country.
McGoldrick: clever link play crucial for both club and country.
Image: EMPICS Sport

THE IRISH COFFEE club at Sheffield United is not what you might think.

There isn’t a drop of whiskey in sight and, rather than holding court in a dingy pub held dear by the diaspora, with pictures of the Rising leaders on the wall and Wolfe Tones blaring from the jukebox, it’s usually a Costa near the club’s training ground where their Republic of Ireland internationals catch up.

John Egan, Enda Stevens and summer signing Callum Robinson regularly meet and while David McGoldrick completes the quartet of Mick McCarthy’s men in that corner of Yorkshire, he is given a free pass to skip the afternoon cappuccinos.

Nobody holds it against him.

Not only does McGoldrick have his own recovery routine after training – one personalised for him by ‘reconditioning specialist’ Bill Knowles, who previously worked with Tiger Woods – but the forward prefers to make it home to his family in Nottingham as quickly as possible, having spent a fair chunk of his career hundreds of miles away in the south of England.

It means he is not just making up for lost time in the Premier League this season, but also with his wife and four children.

Even in the richest league in the world the importance of a work-life balance cannot be underestimated.

McGoldrick provides lifts to and from training to team-mate Kieron Freeman, a neighbour 90 minutes away in Nottingham, and it is just one of the reasons he is a popular figure in the Sheffield United dressing room.

The former Ipswich Town forward turns 32 later this month and is seen as dedicated and reserved, with Egan describing him as a “legend”, while Robinson admitted to being taken aback by his natural ability.

The relationship with manager Chris Wilder is one built on mutual respect and admiration – it began after McGoldrick impressed on a trial in the summer of 2018 following an injury-plagued end to his Ipswich career.

He was signed on a short-term basis, the deal announced with little fanfare on the same day they played Inter Milan in a pre-season friendly.

It was only after McGoldrick scored in the game that evening that the club opted to interview him for an introduction to supporters.

Wilder had been won over, and the Sheffield United boss is not one to suffer fools or try and pull the wool over players’ – or supporters’ – eyes. When goalkeeper Dean Henderson dropped a clanger to hand Liverpool a crucial victory earlier in the season, Wilder was blunt in his assessment, insisting the on-loan Manchester United star would have to improve his concentration levels if he wants to play for an elite club.

So, when Wilder recently provided an impassioned defence of McGoldrick, as critics began to circle for his failure to so far find the net in the Premier League, it was clear the backing was legitimate.

“He’s an international player… Any sort of negativity or criticism towards him is ridiculous, because he gives everything for this football club and is brilliant for us.”

Exhibit A can be revealed as follows. In the final training session prior to the away game with Everton on 21 September, McGoldrick missed a chance in the small-sided game at the end of the session.

Refusing to finish the day on a low, he decided on an impromptu finishing session alone to try and sharpen his touch. Instead, McGoldrick tweaked his groin and was ruled out of the trip to Goodison Park.

Wilder had cited that extra training as an example of the attitude he sets, but it is now that the reasoning for staying behind to practice can be explained. That miss gnawed away at him and, such is his determination to put things right, McGoldrick insisted on it.

It has been that dedication to his profession and willingness to improve that has made him such a valuable example in the Sheffield United dressing room.

Not just that, McGoldrick has been an influential figure – despite his lack of goals – as Wilder’s men have risen to sixth in the Premier League.

Now Irish eyes will be on the Blades’ trip to face Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon, with Spurs starlet Troy Parrott’s ascension to the matchday squad for their trip to Everton last weekend adding another subplot after he was included in McCarthy’s squad for the upcoming friendly with New Zealand and Euro 2020 qualifier at home to Denmark.

The 17-year-old is viewed as a great hope for the future but, as became abundantly clear when McGoldrick missed the most recent Group D games – in Georgia and Switzerland – it is the Sheffield United talisman who is of utmost importance for the here and now.

His excellent late equaliser at home to the Swiss saw him break his international duck – he remains the only Ireland forward to score in this qualifying campaign – and it his ability to make the ball stick in the final third which is invaluable for McCarthy’s game plan.

Aaron Connolly’s rise to prominence with Brighton is exciting and the prospect of the pair linking up in green is intriguing. Their strengths are very different – the elder statesmen being a clever link player who brings others into play, the young pup a flurry of energy as well as instinct in the box.

The Ireland manager doesn’t live too far from Tottenham’s new stadium so a trip to north London will certainly appeal.

He knows exactly what to expect from McGoldrick and McCarthy will no doubt be reciting his favoured ‘Serenity Prayer’ that the veteran forward comes through unscathed so as to provide the major boost needed to help get Ireland over the line in Euro 2020 qualifying.

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About the author:

David Sneyd

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